How to enter a career in finance

Skills and qualifications you may need

The skills and qualifications you have are important in being successful in any career and financial services makes use of a variety of these. If you have an interest, or are particularly talented in one area, this can make you a valuable addition to a company or bank.

There are times that companies in financial services hire candidates who may not have studied finance-related topics or appear as someone interested in financial services on paper. They may have studied something creative, or perhaps a science, yet by having a different experience and knowledge base to their colleagues, they are an important member of their team.

For the skills that feature on your CV, being prepared to explain how you built these skills will support you in an interview.

There are skills you can pick up from hobbies, or jobs in other sectors and industries, that are transferrable to a career in finance. These include but are not limited to:

Communication skills

which can come from a previous role in a retail store when speaking to customers

Leadership skills

these could have come from teaching a sport or being a captain of a sports team

Problem solving skills

you may have built these through past job experience when faced with a problem

Time management skills

these skills could have been developed by managing a job whilst studying or attending school, along with a hobby

Organisation skills

if you have been responsible for more than one task in a previous position, you may have built organisation skills

Creative skills

you could have picked this up from studying a creative topic, or through an activity in your spare time

CISI membership can help you improve a range of skills, with online learning modules on topics including:

Entry routes

There are many ways to enter a career in finance. Here are a few of the main routes into a career in finance, what they are and what might be required of you, if you choose that entry route.

Click each entry route to find out more.

  • Work experience or internships

    What is it?

    Working for a company at an introductory level for experience.

    Firms often fill their full-time roles with interns from a pervious year and this route gives you an opportunity to trial the sector or a specific area in financial services, before committing to a career in it.

    Usual requirements

    There are generally no entry requirements, however this can vary from company to company.

    It can be useful to have or be studying toward a related qualification or degree.

  • University

    What is it?

    Completing a degree, whether that is finance-related or something completely different.

    Many companies run undergraduate and graduate placement schemes, providing a clear route into the sector.

    Usual requirements

    Some firms look for students with 2:1 grading and above when recruiting for both undergraduate and post graduate schemes.

    Some firms also specify required UCAS points and GCSE grades.

  • School leaver programmes

    What is it?

    Some firms offer job roles for school leavers. This usually involves having a further qualification funded by the firm and building real life experience.

    Usual requirements

    Firms may look for minimum academic grades and there may also be grade-specific requirements for certain subjects.

  • Entry-level jobs

    What is it?

    Some firms offer roles such as data entry, or administrative duties. This can be a good entry point to a larger organisation with potential opportunity to progress into higher-level roles with hard work.

    Usual requirements

    Requirements vary for this route. Some may ask for none or some may require Microsoft Office skills, along with soft skills such as communication skills or organisation skills.

  • Internal company promotions

    What is it?

    At some organisations you can move from a retail position to a corporate/office position. This can be valuable for you as you have pre-existing knowledge of the company.

    Usual requirements

    Requirements vary from company to company, at some places it depends on past performance.

  • Apprenticeships (United Kingdom)

    What is it?

    An entry route based in the UK, where you study for a credential whilst you work.

    Choosing this route helps you gain real experience, achieve a qualification and earn a salary all at the same time.

    Usual requirements

    A minimum amount of UCAS points or A-Level (or equivalent) grades, set by the company may be required.

    There may also be grade specific requirements for certain subjects at GCSE level too.

Fiona changed careers from classical singing to investment management


Qualifications can help to prepare you for a career in finance, for example GCSEs or A levels in Maths, Economics, Business, Accounting or similar can be a good starting point. English, Modern Foreign Languages and Geography can be just as important, depending on what area of financial services you want to enter.

With your GCSEs and A levels you could start a job in finance straight after studying A levels or college in a school leaver programme.

You may also choose to achieve a higher qualification. You may choose a traditional route such as completing a degree in finance or a finance-related topic, or by completing a degree apprenticeship, where you build vocational experience whilst achieving a degree.

There are other qualifications, which have no entry requirements, that can help you enter a career in financial services and provide an insightful introduction to financial services, this includes the CISI’s Fundamentals of Financial Services.

Listen to our career talks podcast episode to hear from Emma Dobson , a member of the CISI’s Young Professionals’ Network, on going from a Spanish degree to a compliance career.

Find out what qualification is right for you using our interactive test.

Take the interactive test View all the CISI exam pathways

Here are some qualifications which provide an overview of the sector, with key information to

Study for this qualification in 100 hours
Achieve the Fundamentals of Financial Services qualification
This qualification is an important first step in developing the essential basic knowledge of the financial services sector. Learn about the commonly used financial products such as shares, bonds and insurance and become more familiar with financial terminology.
Study for this qualification in 80 hours
Complete the Introduction to Investment qualification
If you have general knowledge of the financial services sector, this qualification can help you to deepen your understanding with a specific focus on investments. This includes key principles, products, assets and financial markets.